ROIO of the Week
[Recordings of Indeterminate Origin]



Click on the panels to download artwork



Copperhead
First Unreleased LP [no label, 1CD]
November 1970, soundboard from John Cipollina's master cassette

At one time, Copperhead's first unreleased LP must have been the holy grail among the group's fans. Copperhead was formed in 1970 by guitarist John Cipollina after he left Quicksilver Messenger Service. The Rolling Stone Record Guide (1979) might have considered Quicksilver as "probably the most overrated of the original batch of San Francisco groups" but this late '60s psychedelic rock group also performed "among the best instrumental work any San Francisco band did," and the guitarist who stood out was Cipollina.

This is what 38f, who posted the lossless tracks on the internet, said: "Yep, this is one of the rarest John's cassette. Copperhead's story is quite long... in few words, the first Copperhead attempt is this. John tried to shop it to different record companies but with no luck. Two years later his father, Gino, paid for a demo recording that finally was sold to CBS (first LP). A year later, the second LP was ready but Columbia stopped the project cause the first one did not sell. Columbia still has the masters of that second LP. Mario (John's brother) told me he tried to buy the album from them in order to release it, but had no reply from Columbia executives."

38f also noted that this was how John's notes originally was recorded on his reel:

John Cipollina - lead guitar, Hawaian steel guitar, steel guitar.
Mark Unobsky - guitars and vocals
Jim Murray - guitars, tablas and harmonica
Jim McPherson - piano and vocals
David Weber - drums
Cyrus - bass

1. Untitled
2. I Just Gonna Move You
3. Drunken Irish Setter (first ever known version)
4. Untitled #2 (tape's speed is not stable on the original recording)
5. Highway No. 9 (acoustic version)
6. Mama (title of the first incarnation of this song)
7. Chameleon (Unobsky and McPherson on vocals)

Meanwhile, amellowsoul added the following "revision":

"While correcting JC's own writing is a wrong thing to do, and I don't suggest folks change it. But, perhaps, you will know the following numbers by the names:

"Untitled #1 = Rocket Ship
(While this song isn't offically on any album, it was done live on a few Copperhead shows, its title probably came from a fan than a band member)

"I Just Gonna Move You = Putting It To You
(Again, it's likely also that "P.I.T.Y." is a title made up by a fan, or perhaps it was later retitled by a band member)

"Untitled #2 = Motel Party Baby
(A very, VERY early version of this Cipollina classic! Done by several of bands he was in, probably best known by Dinosaurs. Pity the speed issues, as this is an amazing "find"!)

"Mama = Bigelow 6-9000
(Retitled later by the band. A total knockout hearing this early version!)"

38f concluded with the following observations: "Sometimes, the tape speed gets funny, with some variations. Copperhead's first LP was from 1973, so this was John's first attempt to record an album as Copperhead. The sound quality is OK, not the best, I guess he recorded this with a small tape recorder in his house."

Despite some speed fluctuations, overall the sound is very good.

John Cipollina passed away from a lifelong respiratory ailment on May 29, 1989. He was 46.

A word of thanks to 38f for the effort and to laryddave for the artwork.

+ + + + +

Note from Live! Music Review editor Bill Glahn (March 2010):

Nice to see your posting of Copperhead's unreleased 2nd album on the BigO "restart." A couple comments: The reason the album was unreleased is much more complex than simply "because the first one didn't sell."

Clive Davis was responsible for signing Copperhead to Columbia for a reported $1.5 million 5-year deal - a huge sum for the times. Around the time of the first album release, the Feds were investigating Columbia's A&R department for using drugs as payola and Columbia was investigating Davis for using company funds for private use. Although Davis was not implicated personally in the drug scandal, Columbia did conclude that he used $87,000 for personal use and Davis was fired.

Often in the music business, senior execs or A&R people are awarded points (percentage of gross sales) for acts that they sign. When the exec leaves the company for any reason, there is little incentive for their replacement to push for promotion of the act since the replacement has no vested financial interest (they'd rather push acts of their own signing).

That - plus the fact that Columbia had obligations to fulfill the contract based on sales figures - led the company to effectively "kill" the 1st album. There were no trade ads or radio promotion for the 1st album (NADA!) and only 60,000 copies were pressed. No second pressing. The end result was that Columbia was off the hook for what was seen as an excessively expensive contract and promotion department finances were cleared to promote acts which the new regime had a vested interest.

+ + + + +

Click on the highlighted tracks to download the MP3s (these are high quality, stereo MP3s - sample rate of 192 kibit/s). As far as we can ascertain, this recording has never been officially released.

 
Track 01 Rocket Ship (6.3MB)
Track 02

Putting It To You (7.0MB)

Track 03 Drunken Irish Setter (5.7MB)
Track 04 Motel Party Baby (5.8MB)
Track 05 Highway No. 9 (4.9MB)
Track 06 Bigelow 6-9000 (4.9MB)
Track 07 Chameleon (4.5MB)


Click on the link to order Copperhead albums.



For more... email [email protected] with the message, "Put me on your mailing list."


 
September 30, 2007









 

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